The Washington Redskins take on the Atlanta Falcons in their first preseason game on Thursday, and the coaches and players are excited for the opportunity to get back on the field.
It's so close, the Redskins' coaches and players can practically taste it.
The "it" would be Washington's first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons, this Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.
"[Training] camp was fun, to get out here and play football meet the fans, show love for them, but that's the heart of why we play the game, to play against a different colored jersey," Trent Murphy said. "It'll be exciting to get down to Atlanta. They're always competing, and I've got some fellow Stanford guys down there I like to butt heads with, so I'm excited to get down there."
Every single day in training camp, the team's been putting in work, whether it be on the practice fields, the weight room or in the film room. Not a second has gone by that a coach or player has slacked off and lost sight of the task at hand, which is to get ready for the preseason and then, of course, the regular season.
Murphy's role at strongside linebacker is, for the most part, set in stone, after the team released its first unofficial depth chart on Monday. Running back Mack Brown, however, has a steeper hill to climb on the depth chart, as he's listed behind Matt Jones [first team], Chris Thompson [second team] and Keith Marshall [third team].
For Brown, this game with the Falcons is critical for him, as it'll give him a chance to get some valuable game reps in and show head coach Jay Gruden and running backs coach Randy Jordan that he deserves to move up the depth chart.
After all, Brown knows what it feels like to be on the outside looking in, having served two stints on Washington's practice squad last season.
Being released twice wasn't something Brown wanted to have happen, but it did, so Brown decided that in order to make the 53-man roster he'd have to put in extra work and take a "never say never" approach to training camp.
"Last year I came in, I [didn't] know the playbook really," Brown said. "I came in when camp first started so I was uncomfortable in the game. Right now I'm pretty comfortable in the playbook, and [once you know your plays], you gotta go out fighting, so that's the main thing. I'm gonna ball out Thursday because I prayed about it, and I'm gonna do it."
Check out these top photos from the Washington Redskins' 2015 Week 5 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons Oct. 11, 2015, at the Georgia Dome.
Another player who's farther back on the depth chart at his position is tight end Logan Paulsen, who also has a big hill to climb if he expects to remain with the Redskins through all the roster cuts that are coming.
Paulsen's entire 2015 season was wiped out after he suffered a toe injury in the preseason. Like Brown, he's been pushing himself to extreme limits in training camp in the hopes that he'll gleam just a little bit more than his direct competition.
"Oh yeah absolutely, try to play physical, try to play hard, try to play to the whistle, you know what I mean?" Paulsen said. "Those are all things I try to do in every game, but especially in this one, trying to show the coaches I still have that ability and I'm still that guy."
It'll definitely be a change of pace for the team on Thursday night, as they'll be inside the climate-controlled atmosphere of the Georgia Dome, which is a far cry from what they've been used to at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center.
If it hasn't been the sun and humidity beating down on the coaches and players, it's the summer rains that occasionally come through, which present an entirely different challenge in itself.
Gruden doesn't subscribe to the notion of the team having to get used to new surroundings and a different climate. He says the preparation time for an indoor game, after being out in the elements for so long, is minimal at best.
"It's [Georgia Dome] a fast track, our receivers will love that," Gruden said. "The environment there will be premier for football and for these guys. So, I think the biggest thing to keep an eye on is how they handle their stamina. When you get out in a game, guys will be playing more than three, four, five, six plays in a row, and we'll see how they handle it, the receivers, defensive backs, pass rushers. It will be good to see. It will be good work for us, and we'll see where we are exactly from a conditioning standpoint, and from a skillset."